After the postponement of our last match against Chichester City, the Hillians were bound to be the fresher of the two sides, with their opponents Cray Valley PM playing just 48 hours earlier. Would it prove to be a factor? Keep reading and make your own mind up, folks.
The opening 15 minutes of this 2022 curtain-raiser was sedate but the opening chance was a really good one. A Tom Chalaye cross was kept alive by the impressive Conrad Honore, he found skipper Lewis Taylor in the inside left channel but with the outside of his right foot couldn’t beat Chris Lewington who made a fantastic early save. The opening goal came from Cray Valley’s first attack of the game. A short free kick by Matthew A-Warren found Rory Hill down the left, he crossed for Ade Adeyemo who’s effort was blocked by Nic D’Arienzo but the Hill defence were caught sleeping as Rory Hill reacted quickest to slam the ball past a helpless Taylor Seymour. 1 quickly became 2 for the Millers as a Denzel Gayle cross down the right found Marcel Barrington who turned and stroked his effort off the inside of the post and over the line to double the visitors’ advantage. Those 2 quick goals knocked the new year stuffing out of the Hillians but Hayden Skerry almost halved the deficit moments later. A fierce free kick from the left was spilled by Lewington but fortunately for him it hit the post and flew away from danger. Taylor Seymour had to get down low to tip a long range effort around the post as the Millers continued to look dangerous. The Hill were being restricted to long range efforts, first a free kick from Skerry was easier this time for Lewington before an audacious Lewis Taylor effort sailed into the trees. Just before HT, a superb ball from Connor Dymond set Denzel Gayle away, he cut inside before unleashing with his effort – which took a big deflection off D’Arienzo and smacked back off the post. The final chance of the half fell to the Millers as Barrington broke the offside trap but his effort from 18 yards was straight at Seymour.
The opening chance of the second half came to Adeyemo, but his left footed attempt dribbled through to Seymour before the Hill blew a good chance themselves. Conrad Honore did really well to keep the ball and burst away before chipping a delightful ball out wide to Tom Chalaye, he cut inside his man and left him eating grass but he put too much power into his effort and it flew over the crossbar. Back down the other end a slight miscommunication allowed Rory Hill an effort on goal but the Miller couldn’t put it on target. In the 61st minute, the Hill were back in it. A deep Leon Moore cross was nodded down by Chalaye to Finney, he rolled it to his right for Lewis Taylor to stroll onto and place his effort beautifully into the bottom corner to half the arrears. The tide was just beginning to turn and 4 minutes later the Millers were down to 10 men. The already booked Hassan Ibrahiym left one on Taylor Seymour which resulted in his marching orders. All the momentum was with the Hill now. Substitute Martyn Box flew down the left hand side and seemingly was only stopped illegally by a move you would more commonly see in the octagon, however the referee was unmoved to the bemusement of the 415 in attendance. Tom Chalaye had an effort well blocked as the Hill were cranking that pressure up but it was in fact the visitors who almost got the next goal. A visiting corner was whipped perfectly into the danger zone and headed towards goal, but Taylor Seymour somehow managed to claw it out before it hit the back of the net. The team from Eltham looked to have weathered the storm as Denzel Gayle twisted and turned before forcing Seymour into another good low save. With minutes to go, Jay Lovett’s men thought they’d grabbed an equaliser. A free kick was kept alive and hooked back into the box, Max Miller missed his kick before Tom Chalaye tucked it away but the assistant referees flag was raised and cut short the celebrations. Speaking of tight, when 6 minutes were added on at the end of the second half, tight was how the visitors were sitting on their slender lead. A lead which wasn’t a lead for much longer. Some lovely football down the right saw Lewis Finney grab another assist, he set up Max Miller who from the edge of the box powered home a gorgeous right footed effort, across the despairing Lewington and into the bottom corner to send the More Than Tyres, More Than Happy! You would be forgiven for assuming that would be that. Oh no. Think again. Remember those 6 minutes added on for those knackered Cray Valley legs who had played just 48 hours earlier? Yeah. That. There’s always one final chance in football. Taylor Seymour turned into a NFL quarterback spraying a neat ball out to sub Reggie Ward, he played it inside to Lewis Taylor who’s cute little dinked cross was met by Lewis Finney who rose like the freshest salmon in the lake to loop his header up and over Lewington, into the corner. Cray Valley shattered. Hillians heroic. Cue scenes we haven’t seen in a long, long time. Players running everywhere. Fans running everywhere. Coaching staff not entirely sure what to do with themselves apart from jump on the spot windmilling their arms like utter lunatics. 5pm in Burgess Hill is sometimes the greatest place to be and this was one of those moments.
To be honest, I’m not convinced I’ve calmed down even now. These young Hillians that Jay Lovett entrusts keep performing to the peak of their powers week in week out. Never say die attitude and they absolutely have no idea when they are beaten. Staggering. Just staggering.
Yesterday’s match sponsors, K. J. Thorne Butchers awarded the Man of the Match to Conrad Honore.
Next up, we aim to do it all over again with less stress as we head to Sittingbourne on Saturday for a first visit there in a long time!